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Rechtswissenschaftliche Fakultät Lehrstuhl Alonso

Ancient Legal History


(Vst.-Nr. 0220)

Ancient Legal History 

Roman law, which in its final form, as compiled in Justinian's Corpus Iuris Civilis, builds the foundation of all continental European legal systems, is most often studied in isolation, as the only source of our own legal thinking.

Unlike this idealised Roman Law of the romanistic tradition, the actual Roman law of history arose and evolved as one among many other ancient legal traditions, older than it by centuries and even millenia. The course "Ancient Legal History" aims to explore these "other" legal traditions and their interplay with Roman law. Through examples taken from the Mesopotamic, Egyptian and Greek legal traditions, this course will focus on the actual legal practice of these ancient cultures, handed down to us through innumerable documents, particularly papyri from Greek and Roman Egypt.

In addition, the course will also look at problems that arose as a result of Roman expansion: In particular, how the Roman jurists, the Roman courts and the Imperial bureaucracy addressed a legal practice that, unlike in Italy, was in the provinces often still dominated by such non-Roman legal traditions.


Wednesday, 8:00-9:45 a.m.
Venue KOL-F-121
Module See

The script and the literature will be published at the beginning of every week. 

Provisional programme:

Date Subject Literature Documents
22.09.2021 Ancient Legal History: Introduction

Nörr (PDF, 790 KB)

Selb (PDF, 1 MB)

Slides 1 (PDF, 58 MB)

Script 1 (PDF, 609 KB)

I. Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Legal Traditions



The Cuneiform Legal Tradition

Gaudemet (PDF, 2 MB)

Selb (PDF, 1 MB)

Hallo (PDF, 980 KB)

Snell/Liverani (PDF, 224 KB)

Snell/Wells (PDF, 211 KB)

Roth (PDF, 157 KB)

Slides 2 (PDF, 12 MB)

Script 2 (PDF, 4 MB)


06.10.2021 Continuation see above see above
13.10.2021 The Ancient Egyptian Legal Tradition

Theodorides (PDF, 2 MB)

Lippert (PDF, 267 KB)

Lloyd (PDF, 840 KB)

Slides 3 (PDF, 4 MB)

Script 3 (PDF, 4 MB) 

20.10.2021 The Greek Legal Tradition 

Gagarin (PDF, 1 MB)

MacDowell (PDF, 794 KB)

Todd (PDF, 1 MB)

Slides 4 (PDF, 21 MB)

Script 4 (PDF, 1 MB)


27.10.2021 Continuation

see above

see above
03.11.2021 The Hellenistic Legal Tradition

Gagarin (PDF, 6 MB)

Meleze Modrzejewski (PDF, 818 KB)

Slides 5 complete (PDF, 38 MB)

Script 5 (PDF, 17 MB)

10.11.2021 Continuation see above see above
17.11.2021 Legal Pluralism in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt Alonso (PDF, 1 MB) Script 6 (PDF, 8 MB)
II. Sale and Acquisition
24.11.2021 Cuneiform Practice

Slides 6 (PDF, 24 MB)

Script 7 (PDF, 3 MB)

01.12.2021 Ancient Egyptian Practice: The Hieroglyphic and Hieratic Practice

Slides 7 (PDF, 5 MB)

Script 8 (PDF, 1 MB)

08.12.2021 Ancient Egyptian Practice: The Demotic Phase

Depauw (PDF, 1 MB)

Manning (PDF, 613 KB)

see above
15.12.2021 Greek Practice: The Payment of the Price  

Slides 8 (PDF, 23 MB)

Script 9 (PDF, 1 MB)

22.12.2021 Continuation   see above
P. Giss 40

P. Giss. 40 (ca. 215 CE): the so-called Constitutio Antoniniana

Weiterführende Informationen


Q&A on January 12th

On Wednesday, January 12th 2022 from 17:00 to 18:30 Professor Alonso will host a Zoom meeting for the students that are currently attending the lectures of Ancient Legal History. The meeting will be an excellent opportunity to ask questions regarding the lectures and the relevant material. This Q&A is being offered additionally to the lectures already taking place. You will find the meeting ID and the passcode under the following link.

Online oral exams

As communicated by the faculty, all exams will be conducted exclusively online (via Zoom or Teams). The structure, time and procedure of the exams will not be affected by this decision.


Podcasts of this lecture will be made available here continuously after each lecture: Podcasts Ancient Legal History.


Please note that due to possible technical issues full and complete availability of the podcasts cannot be guaranteed.

fictitious loan

Free seminar places left for Master students

The seminar "Fictitious Loan in Antiquity" is aimed at students who are interested in Antiquity and ancient law. It will take place from April 8th to 9th 2022 in the Central Campus of the University of Zurich. The participation is possible in German or English and the paper can be written in one of the two languages as well. 


Free places left for Master students! You can write a Master thesis about one of the topics of the seminar by signing a Master thesis agreement. Master thesis inscriptions